LAURELS: Montañez, Sumner Are New Fellows of California Academy of Sciences

Building with natural-terrain roof
The California Academy of Sciences, in Golden Gate Park, describes its living roof as “the heart of the academy.”


  • Isabel Montañez, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • Dawn Sumner, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • Mika Pelo, Department of Music
  • Raquel Aldana, School of Law
  • Zuhair A. Munir, Department of Materials Science and Engineering
  • Bill Buchanan, Information and Educational Technology

San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences’ newest class of fellows includes two UC Davis professors, both of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences:

Isabel Montanez headshot
  • Isabel Montañez, Distinguished Professor and Chancellor’s Leadership Professor — A paleoclimatologist, she travels the world to examine ancient climate processes and document a broad range of climate behavior in the near and distant past, contributing to major paradigm shifts in understanding the role that greenhouse gases have played in past climate perturbations. In addition, her reconstructions of the isotopic records of ancient seawater, coupled with sea-level history, have provided new insights into the Cambrian explosion and the establishment of complex marine ecosystems.
Dawn Sumner headshot
  • Dawn Summer, professor — Her research focuses on Earth’s early environments and microbial ecology, emphasizing the evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis and its environmental effects. She also studies microbial ecology in ice-covered Antarctic lakes as analogs for ancient life on Earth and possibly elsewhere in the solar system, specifically Mars, using data from the NASA rover Curiosity. She is a member of the Mars Science Laboratory team behind the Curiosity mission; the rover landed on Mars in 2012 and is still active.

Fellows are nominated by their colleagues for notable contributions to science or science education and communication. The academy’s board of trustees makes the selections, 14 for 2020, bring the total number of fellows to more than 450. They comprise a governing body of partners and collaborators in the pursuit of the academy mission to explore, explain and sustain life.

— Becky Oskin, content strategist, College of Letters and Science

Mika Peolo headshot

Music composition professor Mika Pelo contributed a new work, Broken, for pianist Rolf Hinds’ Oct. 7 London concert on the pandemic, “Is It Too Soon to Talk About All This?”

Hinds had asked other composers “for new little pieces reflecting the times,” after he had written Khaga as a way to process his grief after losing his father in the lockdown.

Raquel Aldana headshot

Raquel Aldana is the latest UC Davis law professor to be elected to the American Law Institute, a leading independent organization producing scholarly work to clarify, modernize and improve U.S. law.

Aldana, former associate vice chancellor for academic diversity, has expertise in immigration law and policy, Latinos and the law, international human rights, sustainable development in Latin America, and Central American studies.

The Engineering Ceramics Division of the American Ceramic Society announced it will present its 2021 James I. Mueller Memorial Award to Zuhair A. Munir, distinguished professor emeritus of materials science and engineering, and dean emeritus of the College of Engineering.

Zuhair Munir opens door of lab equipment.
Munir: Honored by professional society.

The award recognizes longtime service to the Engineering Ceramics Division along with work of significant industrial, national or academic impact in the area of engineering ceramics.

“I am grateful to receive this honor, which I feel also belongs to my former students and visiting scholars who contributed greatly to my research over many decades,” Munir said.

He was one of the first scientists in the United States to investigate the role of electromagnetic fields in materials processing, including spark plasma sintering, or SPS, and among the first in the United States to explore self-propagating high-temperature synthesis, or SHS.

A member of the faculty since 1972, Munir was an associate dean for many years before serving as dean of the College of Engineering from 2000 to 2002.

He received the UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement in 2006-07 and the Academic Senate’s highest honor, the Faculty Research Lecture Award (now called the Distinguished Research Award), in 2006.

— Read the complete article by Noah Pflueger-Peters of the College of Engineering.

Bill Buchanan does not confine his communications work to Information and Educational Technology. Off the clock, he hosts and produces the public affairs radio interview program Davisville, which recently extended its winning streak to three years in a row in the Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards competition presented by the San Francisco Press Club.

Bill Buchanan headshot
Bill Buchanan

This year, Davisville swept its award category, “Radio/Audio-Noncommercial: Public Affairs Program (Staff of 1-4)”:

  • 1st place — “Many Homeless People in Davis Are Finding Homes, but More People Are Becoming Homeless,” first aired July 1, 2019
  • 2nd place — “Going Back to High School, Sort Of,” July 29, 2019
  • 3rd place — “Biotech Is Changing the World, and Davis Has a Role,” Dec. 30, 2019

Davisville has aired on KDRT-LP 95.7 FM since autumn 2008. Buchanan shares the Press Club awards with his brother Jim Buchanan, sound engineer for the program and part-time employee of KDRT owner Davis Media Access.

New episodes debut at 5:30 p.m. every other Monday and each airs four times per week (see the station schedule here).

Current and past editions are available online. Recent episodes are also available via Apple podcasts.

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